The Chateau de Beynac sits high above the village on a limestone cliff top. What a sight this is!
It was built in the 12th century, to close the valley off by intruders. When we saw the sheer cliff face it was built on, I doubt if this would have been a problem, at least not on the river side!
The oldest part of the Castle is the romanesque Keep, which has very few openings.
Would you believe that when the 100 year war was on, one of the border's between England & France was here, they used the Dordogne river as the divider! The Chateau de Castlenaud was held by the English!
The castle was bought in 1962 and restored. Inside are tapestries, scenes from the period, and some furniture.
The Chateau has also been used in some films, and so has the village.
Follow the narrow road from the village up the hill to the Chateau.
OPEN....Every day of the year
Adults: € 7.50
Enfants (5-11) : 3,20 € Children (5-11): € 3.20
enfants de 12 à 16 : 4,30 € Children 12 to 16: € 4.30
Yes, you read correctly, there are two parts to the Village, The Upper & The Lower. If we hadn't wanted to see the Chateau, we would have never realized there was more than the Chateau up the top of the cliff face!
This village has the title of "One of the most beautiful villages in France,' so it is one that we wanted to explore. Cobbled streets, some of them very steep, houses that somehow look to cling to the cliff, and at the top, more of the lane ways and beaut buildings. We found many Restaurant's, and the prices were reasonable too! Just too early for us to eat, otherwise we would have settled in one of them.
This is the only cave with polychrome paintings in the Acquitaine still open to public viewing. It is about 120 meters long. You must make a reservation at the visitors center for a tour. In May, we were able to do this in the morning for an afternoon tour. Groups of about 10 are taken in to view the paintings and carvings on the walls of the cave. They are illustrations of bison and deer, with some geometric elements that no one really can explain (as the media used aren't carbon-based, they can not be "carbon dated." It is assumed they are over 15,000 years old!) It is wonderful to note how the artists used the contours of the cave walls to enhance their paintings -- rounded areas where the strong shoulders and flanks of the animals are represented. We were lucky and since everyone in our group spoke English, we had an English-language tour. I understand that is not a guarantee here...so be prepared to do this "en Francais" if necessary, especially if you are here in the "offseason." I think it would still be worth it. You can not take photos, and you will check your backpacks and pocketbooks in a secure location for the length of the tour. This was a highlight of our trip. There was an entrance fee. In the summer it may be wise to reserve a visit several weeks ahead.
We arrived at Beynac-et-Cazenac knowing that we were going to do this River Cruise. The car was parked in the carpark, and as we walked the short distance to the Promenade and ticket office, we could see the Gabarre [boat] waiting at the Pier. Quickly, we bought our tickets and hopped onto the Boat.
There weren't many people on this cruise, but as we passed another Gabarre heading back to the Pier, we noticed that one was full.
How lucky were we, a nice, sunny afternoon, with the only ripple being made on the water by us, and some kayaker's. The views are lovely, especially coming back of the village of Beynac and the Castle perched on top of the Hill, a good photo opportunity!
We glided peacefully along the River La Dordogne, seeing many Castle's on both sides of the River.
For us, it was a nice, relaxing trip, with a good commentary and good views, we thoroughly enjoyed it!
The cruise lasts nearly an hour, and cruises depart every 30mins.
Boarding is opposite the Post Office.
PRICE IN 2011 ....Adults....7.5euros & Children 4.5 euros.
CRUISES from 10am to 12.30pm and 2pm to 6pm.
THIS IS A MUST DO
If you have a car, take the drive up the top to the Chateau, or if walking, try to make the effort to reach the top.
No need to visit the Chateau, because from here, there are many vantage points for views over the valley. We could see the Dordogne River and the Bridge with its reflections, more than one Castle, the Farmer's field's of wheat and barley, some small village's and great scenery.
On a lovely day like when we were there, it was fantastic viewing!
The fortress was built in the 12C on a quadrilateral plan. The austere keep was added in the 13C. Bastions reinforce the lower levels on the river side, but of course the defenses are directed toward the plateau to the north. It has a double moat and double crenelated walls. It was entered by a drawbridge with a barbican. In the 15C after the English Wars more elaborate manorial quarters (with some Renaissance windows) were added to the west and bartizans were added on the corners in the 16C.
The castle can only be seen via a guided tour (7 euro fee) in French (although special groups can get it in other languages). The first room entered is the Hall of State with a tall slightly pointed modified barrel stine vaulting. It has a fine carved fireplace and some decorative ancient banners and sparse furnishings.
Off the Great Hall is the Oratory which houses a charming naive 13C fresco of the Last Supper. This is supplemented by some unusual early tapestries, but the light was very dim. The original inner staircases were narrow, steep and spiral for defensive purposes but a fine Renaissance stairway was added in the 14-15C for comfort.
The South Bastion has views out over the river and valley, the castle walls and the castle platform. On our tour we were taken there via a battlement passage and an inner courtyard with a Renaissance balcony above. From our view point we could see the nearby castles (which we could only tentatively identify) and the platform at the castle base where the now roofless stable remains and nearby church were erected in the late 12C .
Beynac et Cazenac is built up the side of a cliff and is on two levels. The castle is at the top (of course; castles always are) and there is a small piece of town outside the castle. The larger part of town is down along the river and you can walk along the river or take a gabarre ride on the river, but the most fun is climbing the steps or going up the steep walkways and enjoying the town growing up the cliff.
Click on the photo to view pictures of both upper and lower villages.